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The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

The Gods of Gotham (2012)

by Lyndsay Faye

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Summary: The first in the author's Timothy Wilde series, in which Wilde, a newly installed New York Policeman in 1845, encounters a blood-covered girl, whose story leads to the discovery of twenty dead children and an assignment to find the killer before anti-Irish rage consumes the city.

Timothy Wilde and his older brother Val were orphaned when their parents died in a fire. The brothers survived by their wits, especially Val's, who nevertheless became a New York City fireman, while dousing his pain in opiates. Timothy struggled with the life Val had chosen, and pursued a different path, tending bar on the lower end of Manhatten.

Until the fire. Until the bar was destroyed, he was burned in an explosion, and rescued by his brother. The fortune he'd accumulated was lost in the fire--a fortune with which he hoped to marry Mercy Underhill, a Protestant minister's daughter who he had admired since childhood for both her looks and her charitable work among New York's poor.

Val, ensconced in politics, gets both himself and Timothy a job on the newly formed New York City Police Department, the "copper stars" or "coppers." Maintaining order in the city has become much more difficult with a mass influx of Irish immigrants driven to seek a new life by the Irish Potato Famine. Timothy is not crazy about the work, particularly after he arrests a poor woman not in her right mind who had killed her infant son and takes her to the Tombs, the New York City jail.

Returning home to his apartment above Mrs. Boehme's bakery one night, a young girl covered in blood collides with him at his door. Gradually, he gets the story out of her, not only of little Liam's gruesome death by the dark hooded man at Silkie Marsh's brothel, but the other children who died similarly and were buried in a mass grave on the north edge of town. Subsequent investigation reveals that the girl, Bird Daly, is telling the truth for once, each child being cut open brutally in the shape of a cross. Chief Matsell tasks Wilde with finding the murderer before the news breaks and anti-Irish sentiment reaches a flash point.

The story takes many twists and turns from there as several letters are received, including one to the New York papers, and one to Dr. Palsgrave, the some-time coroner who determined the cause of the deaths. There is another murder, a child hung on the door of the Catholic Church, seemingly incriminating Fr. Sheehy. Timothy is warned off the investigation, and faces death several times as well as riots as feelings reach a boiling point. His relation with his brother is strained, as he thinks the brother has taken away Bird Daly, or may even be the murderer.

The novel reveals a seamy side of New York involving brothels, child prostitution and Protestant-Catholic hatreds and racial prejudice. We witness a police department that is an organ of party patronage. Yet in the end, Wilde solves the crime with the help of some butcher paper on which he works out all the evidence until he finally realizes where it points. For his troubles, Chief Matsell assigns him to solve crimes rather than prevent them. And so a new series is born!

Much of the dialogue is in "flash," a secret language that derived from the British criminal underground and used among the working classes of the day. Chief Matsell is a historical figure and actually compiled a lexicon of the language, which he is seen doing during the story. The author provides an abbreviated glossary at the beginning with a number of terms.

Tensions between brothers, a possible serial killer of child prostitutes, the grit and bustle of mid-nineteenth century New York, and characters who are not always what they seem all make for a gripping read. I'm glad for the Barnes and Noble bookseller who recommended this book. Don't be surprised if you see subsequent numbers of this series (now up to three) reviewed here. ( )
  BobonBooks | May 28, 2018 |
More like a 3.5 stars. I absolutely loved the setting and the characters. The book started off really strong but then towards the middle started to drag for me. I actually put it aside for a bit and then came back to it. It was strong enough for a first book that I will read the next one. ( )
  CSDaley | Mar 28, 2018 |
Find my full review here: https://veereading.wordpress.com/2016/10/26/gods-of-gotham-by-lyndsay-faye

As usual, the author has done a fantastic job in creating a perfect historical setting. With the vocabulary and the cultural depictions, New York City in 1845 really came to life. I loved how there was so much depth with each character; there were good and bad things in all of them, which just made it so much easier to relate to their struggles. I liked the plot and the way the story had side events that occurred while sticking to the main murder mystery. However, I wasn't as pleased with the ending. I felt a tad bit disappointed with the identity of the killer. I was expecting something a bit more ... evil and twisted? Instead, it just came off as sad. While the author ensured that every aspect had been tied in, it just felt a bit of a let-down considering how wound up I was by all of the other intricacies and details. Overall, though, I must say that this novel was definitely a good read and I enjoy reading this author's work. Her grasp of historical facts and her ability to weave them into a story is remarkable and I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good historical fiction murder! ( )
  veeshee | Jan 29, 2018 |
Exciting entry into the Timothy Wilde series. NY 1845 shortly after a big fire, which burned down Timothy's home, the New York police was founded. There were still no clear rules and regulations, so this spoiled police corps was rather corrupt and often served more to the party than the citizen. Not so Timothy, who used to work as a bartender. He works with the unorthodox way for the weak. This first part of the trilogy is about child prostitution. Thimothy finds out that a devilish madam forces children to prostitution, and if they are no longer useful, let them kill or die.
It is an exciting story, it shows a lot about NY at that time. ( )
  Ameise1 | Oct 13, 2017 |
This is the first of three (so far) novels with Timothy Wilde, one of NYC's first "copper stars", as its protagonist. The setting is mid-19th century Manhattan, which makes it irresistible to me. The city has just established its first official police force, which faces a lot of resistance from the rough underworld types as well as more respectable citizens who see it as a "standing army" and do not approve of its existence. Timothy has an analytical mind, but an impulsive nature and a tender heart; he's a grand creation. His boss is the historical personage, George Washington Matsell, who organized this force and eventually became New York's first police commissioner. Matsell also compiled and published [Vocabulum: A Rogue's Lexicon], a dictionary of thieves' slang, which the author uses extensively in this book. The story line concerns murdered "kinchin mabs", or child prostitutes, of both sexes. When a burial ground containing the remains of 19 of these unfortunates is discovered, and anonymous letters accuse the Irish Catholics of atrocities in the practice of their religion, Matsell insists the crime must be solved without triggering riots between Nativists and immigrants. The middle parts dragged a bit, as most of the fledgling detective's (that word is never used) theories turned out to be wrong, but the setting and the characters carried me along anyway. It's a fascinating world and one I intend to revisit. ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Oct 8, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 110 (next | show all)
New York City of 1845 is a cacophany of competing lexicons. In The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye, the city’s political bosses, religious leaders, starving Irish immigrants, impoverished nativists, civil leaders, race-baiters, headline writers, popular novelists, street hawkers, sinners, lovers, and criminals each employ language as distinctive as a police report’s. But also whispering among the leaning hovels of babble in Five Points are secret loyalties, monstrous acts, and madness.
Amid many intersecting factions, venues, and intents, the novel retains a glorious and tragic coherence. Without being epigraphic, The Gods of Gotham is a feast of language, 1845’s New York City as a magnificent assembly of newspaper articles, poems, sensational novels, crime reports, advertisements, amateur theatrics, hawkers’ calls, political promises, and flash conversations, making those tender and awful things that can’t be said even more keenly felt.
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For my family,
who taught me that when you are
knocked considerably sideways, you get up and keep going,
or you get up and go in a slightly different direction
First words
When I set down the initial report, sitting at my desk at the Tombs, I wrote:
On the night of August 21, 1845, one of the children escaped.
The history of New York's Five Points is rife with legend, speculation, and controversy, but I have done my best to present its condition accurately. (Historical Afterword)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
In 1845 New York City Timothy Wilde, a twenty-seven-year-old Irish immigrant, joins the newly formed NYPD and investigates an infanticide and the body of a twelve-year-old Irish boy whose spleen has been removed.
Haiku summary
Timothy Wilde is
one of New York's first police

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399158375, Hardcover)

1845. New York City forms its first police force. The great potato famine hits Ireland. These two seemingly disparate events will change New York City. Forever.

Timothy Wilde tends bar near the Exchange, saving every dollar and shilling in hopes of winning the girl of his dreams. But when his dreams literally incinerate in a fire devastating downtown Manhattan, he finds himself disfigured, unemployed, and homeless. His older brother obtains Timothy a job in the newly minted NYPD, but he is highly skeptical of this untested "police force." And he is less than thrilled that his new beat is the notoriously down-and-out Sixth Ward-at the border of Five Points, the world's most notorious slum.

One night while returning from his rounds, heartsick and defeated, Timothy runs into a little slip of a girl—a girl not more than ten years old—dashing through the dark in her nightshift . . . covered head to toe in blood.

Timothy knows he should take the girl to the House of Refuge, yet he can't bring himself to abandon her. Instead, he takes her home, where she spins wild stories, claiming that dozens of bodies are buried in the forest north of 23rd Street. Timothy isn't sure whether to believe her or not, but, as the truth unfolds, the reluctant copper star finds himself engaged in a battle for justice that nearly costs him his brother, his romantic obsession, and his own life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:32 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

New York City, 1845. Timothy Wilde, a 27-year-old Irish immigrant, joins the newly formed NYPD and investigates an infanticide and the body of a 12-year-old Irish boy whose spleen has been removed.

» see all 7 descriptions

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